Elevated serum MMP-9/TIMP-1 ratio in patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia

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Matrix degradation within an atherosclerotic plaque is an important pathogenic factor in atherosclerosis, and is largely modulated by the balance between matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their endogenous inhibitors (i.e., tissue inhibitor of MMPs [TIMPs]). Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a rare inherited disorder associated with premature coronary heart disease. The aim of the present study was to examine MMP-9 and TIMP-1 on plasma and cellular mRNA levels in homozygous FH patients (n = 7) compared with age- and sex-matched heterozygous FH patients (n = 6), and with healthy subjects (n = 7), and to test whether once-weekly LDL-apheresis (three consecutive sessions) of homozygous FH patients show short-term effects on these variables.


The main findings were that (i) Compared to healthy control subjects, homozygous FH patients have significantly higher serum levels of MMP-9 and lower levels of TIMP-1, and consequently significantly higher MMP-9/TIMP-1 ratio, potentially reflecting higher MMP-9 activity. (ii) Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) isolated from FH homozygotes have significantly higher mRNA levels of MMP-9 compared to cells from heterozygotes. (iii) TNFα-stimulated PBMC from FH homozygotes released borderline-significantly more MMP-9 than cells from heterozygotes and healthy controls. (iv) LDL-apheresis (one day before treatment versus fifteen days later, on the day after the weekly treatment) had no significant short-term effect on any of the MMP-9 and TIMP-1 variables measured in serum and cells.


The data may suggest that homozygous FH patients have an enhanced matrix degrading potential as compared with heterozygous FH patients and healthy controls, potentially contributing to the increased cardiovascular risk observed in these patients.

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